I've neglected my teeth --- they've always been bad (because adult teeth came in before the baby ones were out, and they're too big for my jaw anyway), and we were always too poor to afford braces for my wayward teeth, so I just thought: Forget it, they're going to look terrible anyway.
And so a combination of a penchant for sugar, sugar, sugar before bed, sugar over every fruit, soda, juice, not flossing, not brushing, not rinsing, really made everything worse.
I'm 20 years old.
For a long time, I believe I had some calculus (tartar) buildup that hardened after a lack of brushing -- I don't know what it was. It was just weird orange stains near the gum that couldn't be removed by brushing. One day I got a dental metal pick, the kind you can get in drug stores, and it was able to scrape the orange stuff away. But the spots left behind were opaque and "white" --- demineralization, I guess? Those spots have no enamel, I suppose, and are very subsceptible to decay.
Anyway, the very obvious cavities I have that formed on the soft white spots all came from specific instances of sugar. Candy, syrup, those kind of things.
I had some terrible, terrible tooth pain about a year ago. It seemed to flare up if I did not sleep enough. It went away after I got more rest.
Since then, I've been very good. Brushing for 2 minutes, no more sugar or snacks, floss, mouthwash, etc. It probably delays the decay process but doesn't stop it.
As you can imagine (and I'm sure a lot of you don't need to), my teeth have been a cause of constant embarassment, shame, etc. I can't talk without being self conscious or ashamed.
I basically haven't been to a dentist since I was ten years old.
Recently, I did make two dentist visits. The first one was relatively painless, except for the pricetag: about 10 fillings and couple of root canals amounting to nearly 10 grand. Yikes, right? The place was clean and modern, the dentist not overly condescending --- he did a thorough examination and seemed to care, even though his bedside manner was lacking.
The second dentist visit was worse. I purchased a dental discount plan, hoping that I could get all that work done for half the price. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I went to a small dental office. The equipment was dirty and sterlization seemed poor. The dentist did a very careless exam and told me that I did not need any root canals. He did not seem at all concerned with my health, and even seemed incompetent. It appeared as if the heavily discounted plan was not enough money to make me a worthwhile patient. He recommended fillings instead of root canals. He recommended a couple of fillings, and said it was all I needed, despite obviously missing a lot during his unthorough exam.
I feel as if my teeth are a worthwhile investment, and I want to get good care, because poor care would cost me more in the long run, right? Yet I want to pay as little as possible because I'd have to loan the money.
What should I do? Right now, I'm not really afraid of going to the dentist. I'm not afraid of pain or needles. That stuff pales in comparision to the emotional toll that having bad teeth does to you. I'm only afraid of a dentist who will do a bad job, or yell at me, or charge me entirely too much, or mess me up big time.